I say this with love – there’s a curiously masculine, heteronormative way that the Scots view themselves. Writing as a Scot, much of our literate, arts, and discussions thereof are framed from a certain viewpoint, a particular perspective. ‘What’s like us?’ indeed. In reality, Scotland is so much richer than that, and the cultural engine room of Scottish life is much more varied, much more diverse that it is sometimes depicted.
Just look at Comfort. A queer punk DIY duo from Glasgow, the band match killer riffs, dulcet pop touches, and thrilling outsider songwriting with killer lyrics, all delivered with style and panache. A sibling duo, it’s Sean on drums, and Natalie on vocals, with the latter’s experiences as a transwoman in 2023 framing much of their writing.
Recorded at Glasgow noise den Castle Of Doom, new album ‘What’s Bad Enough?’ is a real thriller, a bravura piece of lawless defiance. Taking down prejudice, the pressure to conform as a queer person, and the intrusion of 21st century capitalism on our everyday lives, it’s a deeply intelligent, ultra-immediate dose of punk-edged songwriting.
With the new album blasting its way on to streaming services and the shelves of record shops, Comfort frontwoman Natalie delivered this piece, titled ‘You Can Belong Too – A Brief Guide To Queer Glasgow’.
I remember about seven years ago; my band Comfort played our first London show afterwards, a member of the crowd referred to Glasgow as a “mental place” upon discovering we were based there. Unsurprisingly, like most opinions laced with ignorance, this came from no personal experience, a lot of people have made their minds firmly up about Glasgow before coming here. Maybe this is why I, as a Queer transwoman, feel an affinity with the place, because like Glasgow, Queer people are assumed to be dangerous beyond the thresholds of experience. We too are misunderstood. But moving here in my mid 20s was a life changing experience, and though I wasn’t born or raised here, I felt free to exist here for the first time in my life.
Glasgow has a deep cultural history of working people creating their own opportunities. Of people coming together when governments don’t. There are a litany of groups which provide support for their communities in the city, and that couldn’t be truer than for the queer community in Glasgow – it is thriving, vibrant and culturally rich. Writing about the queer community in Glasgow from a singular perspective is a bit like representing an entire forest with a single tree, needless to say I will do my best to explain why I love it here and how I’ve learnt to allow myself a sense of belonging, hard pressed to find for queers in the vitriolic times we live in.
Shoot Your Shot is a 9+ year running queer club night that is genuinely one of the best nights out you can have. Bonzai Bonner, who runs the night, has been cultivating and curating a vital open beautiful space for people to let loose and be themselves. Bonner has undoubtedly played a huge part in transforming the queer landscape of the city, they are kind hearted, enthusiastic and the sort of person that makes you proud to be trans. Bonner also programmes events for the Berkley Suite in Glasgow, hosting queer focused nights like Trollops which celebrates Glasgow’s queer sex worker community by throwing parties and platforming members from it.
Bonjour is a co-op queer ran bar near the city centre which is nearly impossible to imagine not existing since it launched towards the end of lockdown. Going to Bonjour feels like going home and it is hard to imagine anyone not feeling welcomed there. Bonjour has been the launch place for so many vital club nights from Yo Perreo Solx (a queer Latinx night for marginalised genders) to Grind Yer Axe (a lesbian, queer woman non-binary and trans inclusive night) and Q’iwa (a queer cabaret night presented and centering POC performers). I can’t really imagine what the city would be like without this place anymore, it feels like it has been here forever. In such unstable economic times I urge anyone, if able, to support the work Bonjour do, though still relatively new to the city the space has been nothing but vital since the day it opened.
This hardly scratches the surface of what queer night life in Glasgow looks like. Those more Goth inclined can go to the Glasgow staple Danse Macabre which also holds the same event in Edinburgh. Vaj Power a trans club programmer based out of Stereo in the city centre has been curating all kinds of club nights from their own FUSE to Fast Muzik to House Ball Scotland (a platform for the Scottish ballroom community to shine). A recent highlight in this impressive program being a club night curated alongside Ponyboy (a gender inclusive hair studio that also produces queer club spectacles) which saw LSDXOXO perform alongside an overwhelming slew of talented local performers and DJs. The venue also houses another mainstay queer cabaret night in Queer theory.
The annual Scottish Queer International Film Festival (SQIFF) has been taking place in Glasgow since 2015 and hosts a wide arrange of art from within and outside Glasgow. The not-fort-profit organisation also hosts events year-round with a focus on empowering marginalised groups within the LGBTQIA+ community into creating film. Providing networking spaces for queer filmmakers and workshops designed to remove as much barriers as possible. SQIFF has grown from strength to strength in the time I have lived in the city and gives a great platform to queer cinema that deserves it.
Outside of SQIFF there are spaces like Tramway, Transmission and art performance festivals like Buzzcut. Which all encourage a queerer more diverse cultural landscape within Glasgow in their own ways. It feels so easy to miss out on so many incredible things happening around the city, the fact that the city has maintained such a strong artistic scene despite housing crisis, recessions, and violent Tory practices, is astonishing.
Small Trans Library Glasgow is a small lending library of queer books for trans people in Glasgow, they also have sibling projects in Dublin and Wales. Though beyond that this project has brought the trans community together in a multitude of ways. From film screenings with dinner, to foraging trips to providing relief funds for trans people in financial duress.
Category Is… is a queer book shop based in the southside of Glasgow ran by some of the loveliest people you could meet, it’s a relaxing place to be and has an incredible selection of queer works. Not far from there you also have Glasgow Zine Library which regularly hosts queer focused events and an incredible collection of zines. East of the city centre Glasgow Women’s Library a feminist focused library also hosts exhibition about Glasgow’s Queer History, and is welcoming to queer and trans people.
All this just barely scratches the surface of a vast queer scene in a city long underestimated but undoubtedly a place where you can find people like you, build community, love and thrive, together.